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Treading on eggshells

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Have you noticed the cheerful song of the dawn chorus recently? The warmer weather and longer days has spurred most male bird species into song, hopeful to attract a mate. This means we will be out on-site undertaking breeding bird surveys until the end of August. As all bird species are protected while nesting it is important to establish there are none utilising sites before work begins.

There are numerous bird species in West Yorkshire but identifying all of them can be difficult (especially when they’re always so fast and far away which is why a good pair of binoculars is always on hand for breeding bird surveys). Here is a small flavour of the bird species that could be nesting in your area:

The house sparrow Passer domesticus

One of commonly seen birds, the house sparrow has actually been experiencing a gradual decline over recent years which means it is important to maintain sparrow nesting sites. They are communal nesters, and can often be found nesting in crevices on the walls of buildings.

How to identify:

A small robust bird, the males are easily recognisable from their grey caps and white cheeks. Female house sparrows are better camouflaged than their male counterparts but still bear distinct stripes in buff and tan on the back of their wings.

It is good to know exactly how a sparrow looks and then when something else more unusual but also small and brown appears you’ll know it’s not a sparrow!

Male                                                                                               Female


Female house sparrow













The black bird Turdus merula

One of the most recognisable and lovely songs is the one sung by the blackbird. Not fussy about where they build their nest you can find an untidy looking cup of grass and twigs anywhere from hedges/trees to outbuildings or even on the ground.

How to identify:

The males are distinctively glossy black with bright yellow/orange bills and eye rings. The females are dark chestnut brown with lighter dapples on the throat and chest. Their bills are brown with a hint of yellow along the edge.

Male                                                                     Female

Male black bird

Female black bird










Blackbird nest

blackbird nest









The barn swallow Hirundo rustica

Often found nesting in barns and stables they build their cup shaped nests from mud and dried grass. A well known migrator swallows arrive in the UK in April from Africa to breed.

How to identify:

Often mistaken for the similar house martin or swift. Swallows have deeply forked tail with long streamers and a rusty-red chin patch.

Barn swallow in flight                                              Barn swallow nest with chicks

Barn swallow

Barn swallow nest









Western Jackdaw Corvus monedula

Our smallest member of the crow family, commonly seen in mixed flock stealing all the food from garden feeders. They are famous for their use of old churches to build their nests but also commonly roost in chimneys.

How to identify:

A small black corvid with a grey nape and distinctive white eyes. Both males and females appear the same.

Jackdaw                                                                 Jackdaw nesting at Conwy Castle














The wren Troglodytes troglodytes

One of our smallest garden birds. The male wren makes several bell-shaped nests (sometimes up to 12) to attract a mate who then chooses her favourite and lines it with soft feathers and hair. Nests are often tucked into holes in walls or buildings or in bushes or ivy.

How to identify:

A very small squat brown bird with short wings and a short tail.

Wren                                                                       Distinctive shape of a wren nest


Wren nest









The blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus

A well-known cheerful garden guest, the female builds a nest from moss in any suitable hole she can find. These can include cracks in walls, open vents and even unused post boxes!

How to identify:

One of the most recognisable of our birds with their white cheeks, yellow breasts and bright blue crowns. Smaller than most other tit species.

Blue tit

Blue tit









If you think you may have one of these or another bird species nesting on your site then give our ecology team a call to discuss how to proceed.